Is Your Child Ready For A Computer?
Ultimately, you know best when your child is ready for a computer, but children begin working with computers as early as kindergarten and it doesn't hurt for them to have some basic skills before they start school.
They probably watch you or their older siblings on your desktop or laptop and can't wait for their opportunity to experience today's technology.
They are computers on the market geared for kids as young as toddlers. Here are some suggestions for computers for kids, along with ways to keep them safe online as their computer skills grow.
ClickStart - My First Computer by LeapFrog
Great Options for Preschool Children
If your child isn't ready for a real computer there are some wonderful and educational "training " models on the market.
ClickStart™ My First Computer is a great choice. It turns your TV into a learning personal computer.
The system uses a wireless keyboard and mouse. It comes with introductory games and plenty of additional software. The games teach children how to use a mouse, counting, shapes and colors and basic keyboarding skills.
It includes tutorials and levels that adapt as your child learns.
Another good choice is the Comfy EasyPC Play and Learn Keyboard which plugs into the USB port of a real computer.
If you have friends with children your age, ask them for recommendations.
It's Time for the Real Thing
Choose a desktop model over a laptop for your child's first computer. A unit that is in one place is easier to monitor and doesn't suffer as much wear and tear.
You don't need to spend a lot of money. Consider a used or reconditioned model or if you're planning to upgrade, hand your computer down.
Purchase some simple games for the computer. There are a lot of new and used educational games on the market. They are a great way for kids to learn how to use the mouse and keyboard and adjust the volume control.
Put the computer in a central area or if it is going into your child's room place it so the monitor is visible from the door.
Establish firm hours for computer use. Don't let your children neglect homework, hobbies or exercise in favor of computer time.
Getting Started on the Internet
Spend some time with your child surfing the web. Show him or her how to search for topics of interest and how to use the bookmark feature.
Find some kid friendly game sites and play together.
Install a good antivirus program on the computer.
If your child wants to use Facebook or instant messaging choose a password that you both know and begin by having him or her make "friends" with you, older brothers or sisters, grandparents or other family members.
Nurture their creative side with a digital camera. Show your child how to take pictures, download them and use internet programs to create slide shows and collages. Then attach them to an email and send them off to Grandma and Grandpa.
Don't forget to enforce the time limit rule. The internet opens up a whole new world of information and gaming options and it's easy to let one hour slip into two, then three or four.
Keep Your Child Safe Online
The Basics of Internet Security
Most parents worry about their children when they are online and for good reason. There are some nasty websites and dangerous people on the web.
As your child grows older and more competent on the computer he or she will probably explore more sites and the web and you may want to increase security features.
Keep track of where your children are going online by checking the history in the browser menu and discuss the sites they visit.
Remind your children never to give out their password.
Tell your children not to give out personal information like their address, phone number or details about their family.
Safety Conscious Software
Peace of Mind
There are dozens of programs on the market that offer parental control over your child's internet use.
Some are free. Others cost money but may offer a free time limited trial.
Net Nanny offers a number of programs.
The basic programs block sites that feature pornography, foul language, personal dating, hatred, violence, racism, illegal drugs and other sites with adult or dangerous content. This is done by content filtering and site blocking.
They may only allow internet access during pre-set hours.
Some programs will alert you via email is your child is involved in inappropriate conversations or risky situations and may allow you to shut down the computer from a remote location.
Others can record up to 60 hours of PC activity.
If your child is technically savvy consider a program that shuts down the PC if there is any tampering.
Make Computer Time Family Time
Enjoy the Computer Together
From an early age teach your child that computer use doesn't have to be a solidary activity. Like television, it's something you can enjoy together,
Make computer use a topic at the dinner table. Your child should feel comfortable discussing the site he or she has visited and they information they have learned.
If your child is using the internet as a research tool for homework assignments direct him or her to reputable sites. There's a lot of information on the web. Some of it is good. Some of it is bad. Some of it is simply inaccurate.